FORT PIERCE, Fla. - A Fort Pierce serviceman who was killed in Vietnam will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on Tuesday.
The late Spc. Four Ardie Ray Copas is one of 24 Army veterans getting the award for conspicuous gallantry, according to officials. He’s the only one from Florida.
Copas is receiving it for his courageous actions while serving as a machine-gunner in Company C, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 5th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy near Ph Romeas Hek, Cambodia, on May 12, 1970.
According to The Army Times, Copas’ company was attacked by a large hostile force on May 12, 1970 near Ph Romeas Hek in Cambodia. Copas, 19, began returning fire but was knocked to the ground when his armored car was hit. Four other Americans were wounded.
Despite his own wounds, Copas climbed back into the burning vehicle and began firing his machine-gun until the four wounded men were safely evacuated. He continued to fight until he was mortally wounded.
The veterans are receiving the Medals of Honor in recognition of their valor during major combat operations in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, according to officials.
They’ve each previously been recognized by an award of the Distinguished Service Cross, which is the nation’s second highest military award, according to officials. That award will be upgraded to the Medal of Honor in recognition of their gallantry, intrepidity and heroism above and beyond the call of duty.
In 2002, Congress, through the Defense Authorization Act, called for a review of Jewish-American and Hispanic-American veteran war records from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War to ensure those deserving the Medal of Honor weren’t denied because of prejudice, according to officials.
During the review, records of several soldiers of neither Jewish nor Hispanic descent also were found to display criteria worthy of the Medal of Honor, according to officials. The 2002 act was amended to allow these soldiers to be honored with the upgrade.
MEDAL OF HONOR AWARDS CEREMONY
President Barack Obama will present the Medal of Honor to the 24 recipients in a White House ceremony on March 18 in recognition of their valor during major combat operations in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Then, the Army will induct them into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes in a March 19 ceremony.